You know after you have travelled anywhere, no matter what means of travel you use, and the plane, train, bus, whatever arrives at the station. You get that sense of relief and you stretch and feel really, really great, for about two seconds. Then you realise you still have to get a taxi or whatever to take you that final part of the journey and you really just want to curl up with a good book and go to sleep.
Writer's lag is very similar.
You've spent however long writing that first draft. You have laboured over word choices (buying the ticket), been stalled at times (similar to delays at customs), you've been distracted by life events (turbulence), been interrupted by friends who are well meaning and you can't actually be upset with them because they just want you to get away from the computer for an hour or two (that would be the well-meaning lady sitting beside you who just wants to show you pictures of her cats), and so on. The journey has been exhilarating, and draining, and amazing, and wonderful, and exhausting and frustrating, and all of those other things that journeys are, whether they involve writing or travelling or anything else.
You have finished. Hooray!
Now you have to edit. Please, no!
It is one definite way to take the thrill out of finishing that first draft and leaving you feel like you have writer's lag. This is particularly an issue for me at the moment, because I am barely one chapter and an afterward away from finishing my third MS and I find myself delaying, because I don't want to feel the pressure to start editing.
At the moment, it is all happy, happy, happy. I have done the work, put in the hours. The manuscript is nearly done. If I printed now it would be pages and pages of pretty printed text telling a fascinating story.
But already I know that there are unnecessary scenes. There is a particular piece of dialogue that I know I want to erase from existence. There is a scene that I skipped over entirely, but I've referred to it later in the text, so I kind of need to write it. One character has really just plain ticked me off and so I'm planning a rewrite in the early stages to remove them. I already know this and I haven't even done the first read through. That will find at least twenty other major changes that I want to make - not to mention the typos, unnecessary repetitions, and meaningless description that will probably be found.
Do I really want to finish my MS just to tear it a part?
Well, yes, because I would like to have a finished manuscript that is starting to get towards a publishable state rather than a first draft that remains a first draft forever.
I will finish the first draft. Hopefully today, maybe tomorrow. I will work through my lack of enthusiasm for the next stage and get to the absolute giddy-glee that accompanies putting the final full-stop on a story. I will relish in that emotion for a few days and use the time to read a friends MS for them, and get on with my day job and all those other things I need to do. Then I will sit down and begin the first edit. It always goes easier if I pretend I'm editing someone else's work. I'm far more likely to actually be critical of my own work then. I'll still miss things and ask a few others to help me out by reading this and that for me.
Finally, I'll have a dot point list, with page references, of all the changes that need to be made and I'll start working through it. When I get to the end of that, I will have another minor celebration before printing and editing again. Eventually, I may have produced something that I'm ready to share with the world.
I will finish. I just have to keep reminding myself that no matter how I'm feeling, I will feel so much better when it is done.
To all the writers out there - if you know a cure for writer's lag, or possibly even fear of the anticipation of writer's lag, share it with us.